SPRINGFIELD, IL. (ECWd) –
Marshall, Illinois Alderman Warren LeFever traveled to Springfield to give oral testimony at the Illinois House of Representative Judicial-Civil hearing this afternoon.
It was for HB4630, seeking to amend the Open Meetings Act with the language of:
Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Open Meetings Act. Requires that any and all available minutes and verbatim recordings of meetings closed to the public prior to a newly elected official’s term in a public body shall be available to that official for review, regardless of whether those minutes or verbatim recordings are confidential. Effective immediately.
It passed in committee with a unanimous vote of 11-0.
Some Legislators questioned why this had to be amended and put into the OMA since it is already a right of a public official to listen to closed session recordings, regardless of when they were recorded. However, after hearing LeFever’s testimony it was evident that not all local public bodies conduct themselves as they should, and this bill is needed to codify the right of public officials and closed session minutes/recordings.
One committee member was shocked to learn that a public official would have to sue the public body to gain access to closed session recordings.
Let’s just say that the City of Marshall, and its Mayor, should have this bill named after them – “the Sanders amendment“…
We will post the audio of this hearing when it becomes available.
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G. BarracloughPosted at 21:53h, 06 April
Or, the Affordable Sanders Solution (acronym ommitted because this is a family webpage).
Dave L.Posted at 22:51h, 06 April
Interesting…an elected official “shocked” to learn that other elected officials don’t follow the law…come down to Clark county and attend a park board meeting and a Marshall city council meeting..
J WhitePosted at 09:56h, 07 April
this should be the U46 amendment. the board will not allow the new elected officials to listen to the tapes.
Warren J. Le FeverPosted at 09:57h, 07 April
The oral testimony is 100% backed by documentation. I especially want to thank Representative Ives for giving me the opportunity to testify concerning this amendment to the Open Meetings Act. The problem, while not everywhere, is more widespread than people realize and in virtually all levels of local government where closed sessions are used. The are other parts of the Open Meetings that need some amending and I will be ready again to testify. Attached is the written statement I read to the Committee:
HONORABLE MEMBERS OF THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:
My name is Warren J. Le Fever. I am a two term alderman in the City of Marshall, IL, a community of about 4,000 people. I have always called for accountability to the law as it relates to spending. The HB4630 change requested is to basically state the privilege applies to the position, not the person holding office at the time – and it is a right to review the recordings.
I have had several personal experiences regarding this problem during my terms as alderman and observed the experiences of other aldermen. Denial of information should not be determined by who the alderman is and the reality is that for many years that is how it is in certain public bodies. Not every city council refuses to allow certain aldermen to attend closed meetings and I know one city that never refuses aldermen the right to attend if the aldermen so desires. The availability of information to an individual alderman varies also. I have had the experience of being forced to ask for information to be cleared through the Mayor before I received it. At one time one Mayor told me that I would have to use FOIA and go through the FOIA officer to receive information until my attorney finally got through to the City Attorney that an elected official does not have to use FOIA. What caused this incident was my discovery that the City Office Manager and several office employees were receiving pay raises not authorized by council during a labor dispute and afterwards. The wrongdoing was basically covered up because I and other aldermen tried to work within the system and correct the wrong and instead were rebuffed and retaliated against. It turned out that more was wrong. One insider Alderman Bev Church was not living in her ward constituency and was removed from office after she voted to legalize the wrongdoing. Mayor Sanders was involved in the secret pay raise matter from when he first took office and broke the tie vote to condone wrongdoing and his Alderman son and Alderman Wallace and Alderman Strait all voted to condone wrongdoing and legalize it. The matter didn’t end there. Because I didn’t fold up and do what they wanted, I was investigated by a Chicago area attorney and law firm to the tune of over $27,000 to see if they could find anything I was doing wrong. The result of the investigation was useless accusations that could not be used in court but city funds were still used. The Mayor took me off all committees and denied me the right to speak at committee meetings except during public comment. I was bullied by his friends and relatives during council meetings public comment. The City Office Manager’s relatives attempted to intimidate me by following me and constantly driving past my office and residence until they realized they couldn’t. The local newspaper wrote articles that were definitely unflattering about me in an attempt to make me feel I could not win re-election. I won anyway. Certain parts of information (specifically verbatim recordings) have been denied me even though the matter was eventually resolved although not properly. I learned the hard way that you cannot clean up corruption working using local government alone. It was not pleasant. You must have outside assistance and your own lawyer.
The problem is that if an alderman is refused information by a Mayor, the only choice he has is to sue through the courts using his own lawyer and his own funds. He will be opposed by the City Attorney and any additional legal assistance desired regardless of cost using public funds can be used to deny his request. I know. I’ve been there. Going to court is tough and expensive. That’s how illegal activity is covered up. The City Attorney acts as a roadblock to stall and stop the alderman from obtaining the information. Verbatim recordings are simply not made available to an alderman not in favor of the Mayor. Access to information should not be politically determined.
There are other practical basic reasons for making such information available. It makes for better decision-making. Not allowing an alderman to attend a closed session makes him dependent on those attending the closed session to provide if they so choose, any information concerning the decision reached. In closed sessions, where being able to listen and review recordings is available, later discussions as to who said what can be cleared up. Since only hand written notes are allowed, not every person has the ability to write as fast as the conversation happens. If all recordings are available for all elected officials regardless of who is elected, equality of information eliminates the power of abusive behavior available to insiders when the recordings aren’t equally available. It levels the information playing field.
The change in the law by HB 4630 is a major improvement in government because it will end selective release of sensitive information to only political insiders who will keep secrets detrimental to the public good and give greater accountability in matters of public spending. Those not in the insiders’ political loop will be able to access information previously denied so as to keep them in the dark about certain matters. It will improve our system of government, which is a Republic. We cannot make the best decisions and represent properly those who elected us when we are kept in the dark.
Warren J. Le FeverPosted at 18:43h, 07 April
A note to J. White: the U46 problem was discussed with others before my testimony. Unfortunately, U46 is just one of quite a few public bodies with the same problem. We are not alone. It’s a good amendment for that reason. The amendment depersonalizes the problem and changes the Act so the politics of personality are taken out.
MikePosted at 11:41h, 07 July
Next we need a bill that public boards are prohibited from destroying closed session recordings irregardless of their age.
Some boards vote to destroy closed session recordings that are 18 months or older.
You can’t listen to a recording that has been destroyed.
In destroying the records the boards are just protecting their image and cya.
Stop destroying history.
To update the thread, House Bill 4630 (HB 4630) was signed into law as Public Act 99-0515 (PA 99-0515).